Prism's Blog

Cruising the Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman

The  customs mooring ball sat in about 50-60 feet and the water was so clear it looked fake!!! It killed us that we had to wait till 8:30 to check in, as you are not allowed to get off the boat at all, including swimming!!! It was only just 7am!!! An hour and half of pure torture! So we killed the time with more coffee and breakfast. Then we moved on to putting Prism back together. As of our arrival, Prism looked like she had been through a hurricane! We had been warned that check in process in the Caymans can take up to 3 hours. The whole process includes a mosquito fumigation, a drug dog aboard and then all the paperwork and stuff.

At 8:30 AM customs hailed us on VHF16 and asked us to launch our dinghy and come to shore as their launch was not ready. So we brought all out paperwork and headed in. The dinghy landing/ pier was so cool! We were met by 2 immigration officers and 2 Customs Agents. They explained that it was also a training day for the new officers. Hearing that I seriously thought we were in for it, as they needed to show the “whole” process!

Lucky for us the whole process only took maybe 30 minutes. We had to declare any flares, flare guns, guns and spear guns we had on board. We seep no guns aboard only the one pole spear and we have the required flares for a US documented boat. They asked Jon to return to the boat to grab the declared items so they could hold on to them for our stay. No officer went with Jon. So we filled out our forms, had great laughs with the Agents and Officers  and got the low down on all the local must dos! They also informed us that there is NO ANCHORING at Cayman Brac and only anchoring is allowed in the very shallow lagoon on Little Cayman. All of the white morning balls with blue or yellow stripe are government moorings. They are free to use and there is no time limit on them. Though you may piss off the local dive boats if you “hog” a ball above a popular dive site for more than few days.

Our first stop was the bakery right up the road which we had been smelling all morning. The officers told us we had to try the Round Bread, the Raisin Bread, the meat paddies and the Bollow WITH cheese. Sadly they were out of the Bollows but we did buy anything else that was recommended! Nothing let us down, we knew we would be back!

The customs officer advised us not to hang on the mooring ball we where currently at too long, if the wind changed we would swing into the rocks. Noted! We went back to the boat and started to get Prism ready to move down towards the West End of Cayman Brac. Before we could leave Jet and I HAD to get in!!! I have never been in water like this before. Sure the San Blas were clear and beautiful too, but this place puts Panama on the back burner for sure. We could see right away why the Caymans are such a huge dive destination.

We sailed off the mooring and drifted down to the popular side of the island. We grabbed a ball near Scotts Dock and once again got right into the water. A boat we met in the San Blas told us that while they were here a mooring pulled loose causing their boat to drift out to sea while they were ashore. Lucky the dive boats were able to help and get their attention, the boat was retrieved with no damage done.

After been cooped up in a 33 foot boat for 5 days we all really wanted to stretch out our legs. So we all loaded into Falkor and headed into town. We found the local bar and market place, which both have free wifi. We asked if their was a laundry mat anywhere around… they isnt. But if you ask nicely…. like we did, The local market will let you use their washer and drier which takes Cayman quarters at $2.00 a wash and $2.00 a dry. The US dollar to the Cayman Dollar is .80:1 So we were looking $0.20 on every dollar spent. We did not care though, after the salt bath we and all of our gear and Prism got from the bash up, we all wanted clean fresh sheets and clothes.

The next morning we set off in search of renting dive gear for Jet. We started to walk but only made it about 50 yards when a local stopped and picked us up. He asked us where we wanted to go. The man, I have forgotten his name, has lived on the island for 66 years and used to run one of the dive opperations. We asked him to drop us off at The Brac Scuba Shac which is where he was headed any ways.  We rented the gear needed and could not wait to get back to Prism to get our first dive in!! Once again as we started our walk back another local stopped and asked if we wanted a ride! SO COOL!

As soon as we were back at Prism we put together our gear, loaded up into Falkor and made our way over to the mooring ball that was attached to the bow of a wreck!

Our First dive was on MV Capt. Keith Tibbetts wreck, which is the only divable Russian war ship in the western hemisphere that was sunk here as an artificial reef. When they sank it back in 1998  the ship was whole with the stern located on the deep drop off wall and the bow towards shore. The plan was a diver could start at the stern in about 100ft of water and then dive through the whole boat coming out near the bow in about 45 feet of water. Well Hurricane _________ in _________ chewed up the wreck and spit it out in 2 pieces and moved it completely around. Now the stern in about 40 feet and the bow is around 90. There are only a few sections that you can swim through. We did not have a guide so we did not enter into the deeper sections of the wreck. It was a very cool dive!

The next 4 days were filled with 3 dives a day! We were escorted by HUGE friendly groupers and were blown away by the colors, the viability and all the life. Oh and the TURTLES! Its amazing that when you are diving how animals seem to just be so interested in you as you are in them! With the three of us in perfect buoyancy we explored drop offs, tunnels, coral patch gardens and anything else we could swim to before sucking our tanks dry and pushing decompression limits. I don’t think any words can explain the beauty we were surround by.

We were getting ready to do one last dive at Cayman Brac, we finished our surface interval and were setting up our gear once again. Jon gear put together air on…. works… Jet’s gear, the same, then mine. Going though the motions that are second nature to me, I assembled my gear turned the computer away and opened the tank. Normally you hear the hiss of air filling the hoses for 2 seconds or so…. well not this time. Air rushed out of both  ofmy 2nd stage regulators, my main and my octopus. Damn, we tried everything. My 1st stage reg had failed. Not that i can blame it. ITS SO OLD! We have been trying to find a dive shop that could service it for the last 2 years. No-one will touch my old ass Zegal Regulator that was my Uncles before it was mine. So Jon bless his heart, knowing how much diving means to me and to skip out on a dive in  the Caymans would break my heart. He sat out the last dive while I used his regulator and Jet and I plummeted down below Prism. At 108 feet Prism’s keel was still 100% visible… SO COOL!

Pictures speak more than words and I know you all want to see it. I cant wait to made the Episodes to show off all the video footage we got form this amazing underwater world!  The whole time I was wishing we had a fancy Gates housing for our nicer camers, sadly they are way out of our budget so Gopro is what we got.

Mission Impossible Style dropping down to our max depth

I’m pretty sure the friendly Groupers tried to photo bomb our video and pictures every change they got!! We had so much with the giant fish!

On our 5th day at Cayman Brac we once again started to walk towards Scuba Shac and were picked up by another Local. This time his name was Henery. We told him we were looking for some bikes to rent for the day and if he knew anyone. He smiled at us, stopped at his house which was right next to Scuba Shac and said “I have a bunch of bikes!” He opened his garage and pulled out 3 beach cruisers. He said we could use them for as long as we wanted and when we were done to just leave them in the front yard. As if that was not cool enough, he then invited us to join him later at her pool side for fresh blended Pina Coladas! SAY WHAT!

We spent the whole day riding around the island. First on the North side, stopping at a Local Artist house which caught our eye from the street. Foot’s was his name and he welcomed us into his home and as he called it “ His world”! Foots has been living on Cayman Brac since 1985 and finds all the stuff for his art on the island. He was a Sex drugs and rock and roll guy who looks like he was still in the 60’s. We ended up spending an hour or so looking around and even took the trip up the Stairway to Heaven which was worth it for the view!

Loosing day light we said our goodbyes to Foots and hit the road. We wanted to ride out the far East end to view the large blow holes, but because the weather had been so calm, we decided to cut across the island and head to the bakery!

Along the way we stopped at every cave we could find, fist was Rebeccas Cave, then it was the Bat cave then Skull Cave. There were more but we did not make it to them or we could not find them from the main road.

We  even hunted down the wreck of the ” Electron” which belonged to Donald Croewhurst. During the very first Golden Globe Race the man could not cope with being at sea alone and lost his mind.  The documentary “Deep Water” tells the whole story. Sad to think that this is all at that is left.

By the time we returned the bikes, Henery told us that he needed a rain check on the pool side party as the sky turned a little grey. But he did offer to take us back to Scotts dock and told us to come  by the next day to collect on the rain check.

That night the weather came it. Not horrible weather but the winds picked up from the East. Cayman Brac has zero protection from anything that comes out of the east. None of us got any sleep that night as Prism rocked ear to ear. As soon as the sun was in the sky we moved over to the South side of the island hoping it would offer a little more protection, It didn’t. Jet and I jumped off the boat and enjoyed the under water world under the boat once again.

After finding no relief on the south side of the island we moved back to the North side. When we returned the other boats who were moored around us were all gone… we wondered where they could have gone….It was the weekend so we could not check out to head down to Little Cayman…. or so I thought.

We endured one more night rolling ear to ear getting almost zero sleep. As soon as we could we hailed customs on HVF and asked them if we could check out to head to Little Cayman. They informed us… that we do not have to check out to go to little cayman. You only have to check out if you plan on heading to Grand Cayman or beyond and that the other 3 boats had left the day before for the shelter of the shallow lagoon located on Little Cayman. SAY WHAT!!!! We raised our sails and made our way towards calmer water!

As we approached the entrance into the Lagoon we were all a little white knuckled. It looked like there was no way we could get in. So we hailed one of the sailboats to ask about the entrance and the depth once inside. Another cruiser named Scott responded to us, he has a Tayana 37 a boat with similar draft to us. If he can make it so can we! HE informed us to stay closer to the green buoy and that the entrance has plenty of water. It’s once you in past the reef that that sand bottom is literally inches below your keel. Scott also informed us that he “bumped” a few times in the sand, that is was also super low tide and he was anchored in about 6 feet.

Lets just say we also hit bottom a few times while finding our own spot to drop the hook. it was tight and the shallow navigation put everyone on edge. But once we were hooked and set we calmed down. The current in the lagoon rips.. not as much as the swimming pool anchorage in the San Blas but close. We joked as this anchorage reminded us of said anchorage, only shallower, so we have nicked named this spot “The Kiddy Pool”.

With the tide starting to rise a little we jumped into Flakor and headed into shore to see what Little Cayman had to offer. We landed the dinghy on the beach in front of Little Cayman Beach Resort and Reef Divers. This resort is beyond friendly! We headed into the Dive shop first armed with questions about maybe servicing my reg, maybe selling a used one, and once again renting gear for Jet. Sadly because of the weather we did not want to bring Prism in and out of that entrance more than we had to. Most of the dive spots like Bloody Bay were on the other side of the island. Damn. Sadly we crossed off diving at Little Cayman this time around.

We walked up to the market to buy some ice cream and also stopped at the local museum. Once we were done we headed for the bar at the resort as we heard it has great internet. We then proceed to go over budget as we drank in our fair share of the local dark beer called IronShore Buck. SO GOOD. We played a few games that the bar had, spent time in the pool and the spa! Little did we know we would be spending the next 3 days doing the same while waiting for Ep.29 to upload onto youtube. Not to mention it was a good reason to get off the boat during the afternoon low tide.

We could not have timed our stay in the lagoon more perfectly, not only is it spring time, but also a full moon! AKA HUGE tidal swings. Sure its only a foot or so, but when you only have inches below your keel at high tide… every bit of water counts. We were doing pretty good, only bumping bottom when a larger swell made it over the reef. That was until Wednesday…. the lowest of the lows. We dumped out all our chain to help raise the water line a few inches and that worked till a dive boat blew past us at full speed. Their wake sent Prism’s keel into the sand bottom, with a shock that shook the whole mast to a point we were all terrified. We hailed the reef divers and asked them to ask their captions to please slow down when passing our boats during the low tide. Lucky they all got the message and we did not hit that hard again.

We can not believe how friendly everyone was on the Sister Islands! We are 100% coming back here in the future. I think we might even have to spend a WHOLE cruising season between the island so we can explore EVERY dive spot.

Come Thursday the weather was going to start dying down, and it offered a great window to sail to Isla Mujeres Mexico. It was time to exit the shallow lagoon, this at at high slack tide and beat our way back up to Cayman Brac so we could check out officially.

The bash up was a wet one! wow the 10nm journey took us almost 4 hours as we hard to tack way out and back as the wind was of corse coming from the exact spot we need to go. We grabbed a mooring ball on the south side of the island as instructed by Port Security. They asked us to launch our dinghy and head to shore to pick up immigration and customs and bring them back out to our boat. HA! okay we told them our dinghy size and the sea conditions, it would not be a pretty ride with the agents and officers in our little dinghy then trying to time the swells to get onto Prism decks. The 3 of us are all under 3 and pretty fit, we even had to take our time and great care while getting in and out. With that in mind we got into falokor and headed into shore. Cayman Brac also has a shallow lagoon with a reef entrance, however only very shallow draft boats can enter this one. We timed a set and surfed Falkor in through the entrance and made our way to the dock were Customs and Immigration were already checking out another causing boat.Lucky for all of us they did not want or need to go out to the boats. So we did our final check out form the back of their car. The process took less than 20 minutes, most of it spent joking around. Once we were stamped and good to go, we asked if we could have 20 minutes to check the weather one more time and to send last minute emails. Again, with the friendly people of these sister islands they said no problem, but would have to wait around to give us our flares and spear gun until we were done, as they literally have to watch us leave the island and sail away.

So problem, we did our last minute internet check received our guns and flares and set out. The weather had already started to calm as predicted. We stowed Falor, raised the sails and sailed down wind and away from Cayman Brac then Little Cayman. Mexico here we come!!!

5 thoughts on “Cruising the Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman

  1. Wow…beautiful pictures. Enjoying the life is one thing, but this is more then enjoying…amazing

  2. Stumbled on to your site tonight researching anchorages on mainland Mexico. Soooo stoked to see your write up on Cayman’s. Its weirdly been one destination we haven’t really discussed going but after reading…its now way up on the list! The diving…AHHHHHH!!! We’re in La Cruz right now, (well the boat is…I’m filling the kitty in AK) but leaving Banderas Bay in mid-March. North or South depends on winds. Looking forward to more adventures when you and Prism get back underway!

    Hilary Helkenn
    SV Brighter Days, Fuji 45′ cc ketch

    1. Thank you for reading, I hope the info is helpful. The Caymans! YES GO!!!! It was so amazing!
      Wishing your fair winds and following seas during your journey and maybe we can share an anchorage someday!

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